Horror Scenes That I Love: Susie Meets Helena in Dario Argento’s Suspiria

In this horror scene that I love, from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Susie Bannion (Jessica Harper) finally meets the Mother of Sighs, Helena Markos (Lela Svasta).

To make clear, this scene is from the original Suspiria.  This isn’t from the remake or the rehash or the reboot or whatever it’s supposed to be that Film Twitter is currently going crazy over.  Don’t get me wrong.  I haven’t seen the new Suspiria yet so it could be brilliant.  It could be the best film ever made, for all I know.  But regardless, Dario Argento’s Suspiria will always be the only true Suspiria for me.

Suspiria (2018) Official Trailer


Where has the time gone.

In my absense, it looks like other people have flourished, but now I think it’s time to make a return and this time for good.

What better way to mark my return than to show and talk about the first official full-length trailer for what could be one of the more divisive horror remakes set to arrive in a couple months.

I am talking about Suspiria by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, A Bigger Splash and I Am Love). The original film by Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento many horror fans consider a great example of the Italian giallo of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Just like most fandoms, whenever there’s talk about one of the classics being remade there’s levels of trepidation, anger and guarded optimism.

While I’m never one to look at remakes as ruining the originals. IF that was the case then we wouldn’t have excellent horror remakes such as Carpenter’s The Thing and, to an extent, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead.

While I’m excited to see what Guadagnino brings to the table when it comes to his remake of Suspiria, I am also somewhat guarded in that the original film was such a surreal experience that remaking it note for note wouldn’t add anything new to the experience.

Here’s to hoping this is one horror remake that falls under the great side of the equation instead of the trash end.

Glory Daze: Peter O’Toole in MY FAVORITE YEAR (MGM 1982)

cracked rear viewer

The world of 1950’s live TV gets the comic treatment in Richard Benjamin’s MY FAVORITE YEAR, a hilarious homage to those golden days of yore. Executive producer Mel Brooks had first-hand knowledge of the era, and much of the hysterical Norman Steinberg/Dennis Palumbo screenplay is based on his experiences, though completely exaggerated and laugh-out-loud funny. The film earned star Peter O’Toole an Oscar nomination for his role as Alan Swann, a dissipated movie star based on swashbuckling Errol Flynn .

Swann arrives at NBC’s 30 Rock, scheduled to be the week’s special guest on “Comedy Calvacade”, totally smashed, much to the displeasure of gruff show host Stan ‘King’ Kaiser (Joseph Bologna in a brilliant Sid Caesar parody), who immediately wants to fire him. But young comedy writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker, later of TV’s PERFECT STRANGERS), who idolizes the movie great, pleads with Kaiser to give Swann another chance. He…

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The Films of Dario Argento: Suspiria

I’m using this October’s horrorthon as an excuse to take rewatch and review all of Dario Argento’s films!  Today, we take a look at one of Argento’s best known and most popular films, 1977’s Suspiria!


I’m going to start things out by admitting that this is an intimidating review to write.  I once had a discussion with fellow TSL contributor Leonard Wilson about why it’s always so much easier to write about films that we hate than it is to write about films that we love.  That’s certainly something that I’m thinking about right now, as I try to think of where to begin with Suspiria.

It’s not just that I like Suspiria.  Anyone who has ever visited this site before knows how much I appreciate Italian horror in general and Argento in specific.

No, it’s that I absolutely love this film.  I was sixteen the first time that I saw it and I’ve loved it ever since.  To me, Suspiria is not just one of the best horror films ever made.  It is truly one of the best films period.  And I know that I’m not alone in feeling like that.  Suspiria is a classic in every sense of the word.

Compared to almost every other film that Argento has made, the plot of Suspiria is remarkably straight forward.  Suzy Banyon, an American ballet student, enrolls at the prestigious Tanz Dance Academy in Frieburg, Germany.  From the minute she arrives, she gets the feeling that there is something strange happening behind the garish walls of the school and she’s right.  While the film may be best known for Argento’s directorial flourishes and Goblin’s classic score, the story itself unfolds with the simplicity of a fairy tale.

The film even opens with a narrator who informs us, “Suzy Banyon decided to perfect her ballet studies in the most famous school of dance in Europe. She chose the celebrated academy of Freiburg. One day, at nine in the morning, she left Kennedy airport, New York, and arrived in Germany at 10:40 p.m. local time.”  It’s the film’s equivalent of starting things off with, “Once upon a time…”  Having let us know that we’re about to watch a fairy tale and therefore having served his purpose, the narrator isn’t heard for the rest of the film.

Instead, we watch as Suzy first arrives in Germany:

As played by Jessica Harper, Suzy Banyon is yet another neurotic but brave Argento protagonist who has found herself in a strange land.  One of the things that I love about Suspiria is that Suzy is such an ordinary and relatable character.  She’s not “the chosen one.”  She’s not a witch or an aspiring witch or the daughter of a witch or the reincarnation of a witch.  She’s not desperately looking for a husband or dealing with a family tragedy or any of that other BS that we have to deal with in today’s cinema..  She doesn’t have any dark secrets or untapped magical powers.  She’s not seeking vengeance.  She has no trendy agenda.  She’s not the protagonist of the latest YA novel.  Instead, she’s a dancer.  She is someone who is attempting to pursue something that she is good at and that she loves.  In short, she is the viewer.  Suzy Banyon is us and we are Suzy Banyon.  Like us, she’s sometimes scared.  Like us, she’s sometimes brave.  And, like us, it’s just not in her nature to leave a mystery unsolved.


It’s obvious, from the moment that Suzy arrives, that there’s something strange happening at the school.  We, of course, already know that it involves witchcraft.  This is largely because we’ve been listening to the film’s score and we’ve heard Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti chanting “WITCH!  WITCH!” as Suzy’s taxi drives through the woods and arrives at the school.  (The journey through the woods adds to Suspiria‘s fairy tale atmosphere.)

However, for Suzy, her initial concern is that everyone at the school appears to be trying to cheat her out of her money.  Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) has arranged for Suzy to stay in an apartment on which she’ll have to pay rent.  When Miss Tanner (Alida Valli, a force of pure nature in this film) finds out that Suzy’s bags have yet to arrive and Suzy doesn’t have any ballet shoes, she tells her to borrow a pair from another student.  The student immediately offers to sell them to Suzy and is visibly deflated when Suzy says that she’s just needs to borrow them for a day.

And, of course, there’s Olga (Barbara Magnolfi), a student who thinks that names that start with S are the names of snakes.

(I have to admit that, as a former dance student, that scene brought back a lot of memories.)

But it’s not just money that Suzy has to worry about.  There are also maggots that fall from the ceiling, the result of a shipment of spoiled meat.  There’s the strange and labored breathing that Suzy occasionally hears behind the walls.  There’s the fact that her new roommate, Sarah (Stefania Casini), is convinced that the teachers are hiding a secret.  Sarah’s therapist, Dr. Frank Mandel (Udo Kier, playing an oddly respectable role) thinks that Sarah is suffering from delusions but is she?

And, of course, there’s all the mysterious deaths.

For instance, Daniel, a blind piano player, has his throat ripped by his seeing eye dog.  Interestingly enough, Daniel is played by Flavio Bucci who, in The Night Train Murders, played a murderer.  One of his Night Train victims was played by Irene Miracle, who would later have an important role in Suspiria‘s semi-sequel, Inferno.

Another former student, Pat Hingle (Eva Axen) is brutally stabbed to death and, after her body falls through a skylight, the shattered glass kills her best friend as well.  Of course, the killer wears gloves.  It wouldn’t be an Argento film otherwise.  (Pat’s murder is one of Suspiria‘s best known set pieces, one that is so brutal and violent that it retains its power to shock even after you’ve seen it a few times.  For the most part, if someone is going to stop watching or walk out on Suspiria, it’s going to happen during Pat’s murder.)


And through it all, you have Goblin playing on the soundtrack.  The film’s score is so important and so relentless that, in its way, it becomes just as important a character as Suzy, Sarah, Madame Blanc, Miss Tanner, or even Udo Kier!  The score is relentless and, depending on how loudly you play the film, almost deafening.  I saw an interview with Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti where he said that he wanted the score to be “almost annoying” in its relentlessness.  The score overpowers you, in much the same way that the witches of Suspiria overpower their victims.

Suspiria was co-written by Daria Nicolodi, Dario Argento’s girlfriend and the mother of Asia Argento.  Nicolodi has long claimed that Suspiria is based on something that happened to her grandmother.  Argento, meanwhile, has said that nothing in the film was based on fact.  Reportedly, Nicolodi wanted to play the role of Suzy and was so offended with Argento instead offered her the role of Sarah that she went off and made Mario Bava’s Shock instead.

(Suspiria is often cited as the start of the long and acrimonious process that would eventually end with Argento and Nicolodi ending their relationship 8 years later.)


Personally, I think that Nicolodi would have been wasted in the role of Sarah but, at the same time, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Jessica Harper as Suzy Banyon.  For that matter, it’s also impossible to imagine anyone other than Dario Argento directing Suspiria.  Suspiria is Argento’s masterpiece, taking all of his frequent and familiar motifs (bloody murders, artistic protagonists, the constantly roaming camera, the use of primary colors) and pushing them to their natural extreme.  It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Argento telling Suspiria’s story.

Dario Argento on the set of Suspiria

Dario Argento on the set of Suspiria

And yet, that is exactly what is about to happen.  For years, of course, I’ve heard rumors of a remake and, perhaps naively, I’ve dismissed them.  I took some comfort in the fact that even Dario Argento himself came out and forcefully denounced the idea of anyone remaking his masterpiece.  Remake Suspiria? I would think to myself, Surely no one is that stupid.

Well, it’s happening and if that doesn’t outrage you, perhaps you should leave right now.  Reportedly, the remake is set to be released in 2017.  It’ll be directed by Luca Guadagnino and it’ll star Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Tilda Swinton.  Guadagnino says that his remake will be all about the “power of motherhood.”

Whatever, Luca.  Suspiria doesn’t need you and it doesn’t need to be remade.

Suspiria is perfect just the way it is.


Scenes I Love: “Names that Start With S” from Suspiria

Hi there!  I’m in the mood for some late night horror so I’m currently watching Dario Argento’s Three Mothers Trilogy!  I just finished Suspiria and, before I started Inferno, I figured I would devote a hundred or so words to sharing one of my favorite scenes from Suspiria.

As you probably guessed from the title of this post, that scene is the famous “Names that start with S” scene.  This is the scene in which dance student Suzy Banyon’s new roommate explains that names that start with S are often the names of snakes!  Suzy’s new BFF, Sarah, disagrees.

When I first saw Suspiria, this was a scene to which I, as a dance student, could immediately relate.  As odd as the dialogue may have sounded and as silly as the two students may have appeared to be, it actually felt very authentic.  By nature, dancers are competitive and we are dramatic.  If anyone is going to accuse you of having the name of a snake, it’s probably going to be dancer.

Admittedly, no one ever told me that I had the name of the snake.  But there was the girl who told me that I was “soooooo pretty,” or at least I would be pretty if I got the nose job that I obviously required if I ever had any hope of being happy or successful.  “But,” she added as she turned away from me, “I guess you’d have to figure out how you could possibly pay for it.”  Of course, she was also quick to explain that she was only telling me the truth and that she had the best of intentions.  I had about the same reaction to her advise as Sarah has to be calling a snake.

(Sarah stuck out her tongue.  I may have said something about her boyfriend not having any issue with the size of my nose when he was hitting on me the night before.  But basically, it was pretty much the same reaction…)

This scene made such an impression on me that, in the months after I first saw Suspiria, I would often randomly launch into the name of snakes monologue.  Unfortunately, I had failed to take into account that I was literally the only student at my high school who would actually take the time to watch an Italian horror film from the 1970s.  As such, no one knew what I was talking about and I lost a few friends named Susan and Sarah as a result.

Oh well!

Anyway, you can watch the scene below!  Pay special attention to the way Jessica Harper reacts to being caught in the middle of the conversation.  Dario Argento will probably never be known as a great director of actors but Jessica Harper is great in Suspiria!

Scenes That I Love: The Opening of Suspiria!

Today is not just Labor Day!

It’s also Dario Argento’s 75th birthday!  And what better way to celebrate the maestro‘s birthday than with a scene that I love?

The opening of Argento’s 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, is about as perfect an opening as one could hope for.  American ballet student Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) arrives in Frieburg, Germany.  Both Argento and Harper perfectly portray Suzy’s confusion as she makes her way through the airport and, as torrential rain drenches her, attempts to hail a taxi and get a ride to the dance academy.  (What Suzy doesn’t know, of course, is that the dance academy is home to the ancient witch known as Our Mother of Sighs.)  With this opening scene, Argento both immediately establishes the off-center, nightmarish atmosphere of Suspiria and establishes Suzy as a character who we, as the audience, relate to and care about.  Suspiria is a great film and it all begins with this brilliant opening.

Happy birthday, Dario!

Big Floating Heads, Rampaging Norsemen, and Sister Street Fighters: It’s Time for 6 More Trailers.

I am happy to say that it’s a beautiful day today.  After dealing with a record number of 100 degree days that slowly plodded along without so much as a breeze or a cloud in the sky, I am happy to say that, as I type this, the temperature outside is 84 degrees, the sky is gray with storm clouds, and, here at Le manoir d’Bowman, we’ve got the windows open and we’re loving the breeze.  To me, it seems like a perfect time for 6 more of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers.

1) Zardoz (1974)

From acclaimed director John Boorman comes … whatever this is.  For the longest time, I assumed that this film starred Sean Connery as someone named Zardoz but having watched the trailer, I now see that Connery played Zed.  That makes sense.  With that pony tail and red diaper, Connery looks more like a Zed than a Zardoz here.  I like the flying head, just because I keep imagining that after the head dropped off all those guns, Connery shouted, “Give me more, Head!”

2) The Norseman (1978)

Now, this is a trailer that could have used a big floating head.  The Norseman appears to be yet another oddly ambitious, very low-budget film from the John Boorman of Texarkana, Charles B. Pierce.

3) The Evictors (1979)

Pierce was also responsible for The Evictors.  “It’s happening again…”  Much as the trailer for the Norseman featured the co-star of Eaten Alive, Mel Ferrer, the trailer features the star of Suspiria, Jessica Harper.

4) Tick…Tick…Tick (1970)

Grindhouse and exploitation films loved to exploit Yankee paranoia, which helps to explain films like Tick…Tick…Tick.  (It also helps to explain — but throughly fails to justify — the latest remake of Straw Dogs.)

5) The Flesh and Blood Show (1974)

This film is from one of the few British directors to actually be worth the trouble, the criminally underappreciated Pete Walker.

6) Sister Street Fighter (1974)

This film co-stars the legendary Sonny Chiba.  I can’t watch this trailer too many times because I know it’ll inspire me to show off my karate moves.  Last time I did that, I ended up with a sprained ankle.